First off, here are the Beijing pictures and some more from the last 2 weeks.
Beijing was non stop. Cara, Johnna and I went for 3 nights, left Sunday morning on an 8am flight from Shanghai (2 hour flight). When we got to Beijing we drove to our hotel. Now being in a new city in China can always be a challange. When the cabby took us down some back alley way and told us that's where our hotel was we got a bit concerned. The look on Cara's face screamed, "I'm going to kill you." Luckily, it turned out to be a fantastic location with alot of Chinese personality. Wasn't the nicest hotel it worked.
First day we walked to the Temple of Heaven. HUGE place with 4 different temples scattered about the Park. Beautiful place, though a bit crowded with tourists.
Second day we checked out the Forbidden City, Tiennamen Square, and some other large park with a lake in it, I forget the name. Tiennamen square was well, a large square. Though it was interesting to be there knowing what happened there (and knowing the chinese people DON'T know about it).
The Forbidden City is HUGE. Takes forever to walk around the thing. We saw maybe half of it. The one crappy thing was that it was under construction so some of the buildings were all covered up. Sometimes it seems like the whole of China is under construction, so I suppose it was appropriate.
That night we visited a hoppin street market. And I thought vendors in Shanghai were bad! "Hello Sir! You buy! Come here!" as an arm reaches out to grab you. As soon as you show any sign of interest in something you're swarmed. If you do actually want to buy something, that's when bargaining comes into play. If you're a foriegner you can pretty much count on an 80% mark up. I got some pretty cool Propoganda posters that I'll take pics of and post. I'm pretty sure you can't find them anywhere else.
Come tuesday we finally hit up our main destination, the Great Wall of China at Simatai. Truly amazing. It took 3 friggin hours to get there, and that was with having a CRAZY Chinese driver. The rules of the road are a bit different here. Basically, you move out of the way, or the other car moves, or everybody dies. There were a few times that I said my prayers as we passed rows of trucks on blind turns only to see a car come around the corner head on at us and have our driver and the other driver swerve at the last second.
But we made it. Upon getting to the Wall you take the Gondola thing up the hill for about 20 minutes, then hop on a trolley for another 5, then climb some steep steps for another 20 minutes until you get to the first watch tower.
I have to tell you guys that seeing the Great Wall in person is well worth a trip to China. It is absolutely amazing to see that thing stretching out into the horizen and know that it goes on for thousands of miles. Unfortunately though, the Chinese set up vendors along the wall to sell you stuff. Very Chinese thing to do. So again, you're up there thinking, "Ah! This is so amazing...I can't....." when suddenly you hear, "Hello! Souvenier? T-Shirt? You want buy post card?"
So we made our way along the wall for a few hours then decided to take a zip line across a small lake to a boat dock that would take us back to the parking lot.
The Zip line kicked ass, though I was a bit nervous about hooking myself in a hundred feet in the air in China. You seriously never know how safe some things are here. But what the hell, it was definitely worth it. You can see it in a few of the pics.
The next day we had to catch a cab to the bus station to get back to the airport for our 815 flight to Shanghai. So we told the guy in the hotel to get us a cab. He said he couldn't so he would take us instead.
Little did we know he meant by rickshaw. I wake up at 430 and walk outside the hotel to see 3 rickshaws waiting for us. We weren't sure how far the bus station would be, so we kind of freaked out at first that we wouldn't make it. But we jumped on them anyway and were taken for a ride down some of the Beijing back alleys on the way to the bus station. Got there in no time and we got a Rickshaw ride to boot, albiet a cold one.
So that was Beijing. Worth a visit for sure, but I'm not sure I'd like to live there. Too damn big, hard to get around, the girls aren't as pretty, and the Beijing accent is annoying as hell.
One observation about Beijing: China is trying to ramp things up in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics. They're trying to make the city more beautiful and tourist friendly. But the way they choose to "improve" the city makes me wonder a bit...For example they erected a brick wall that covered up all these shops along the street. On the wall they put up posters on the sights and wonders of China. Behind the wall all the buisness are going out of business or closed down because obviously the wall killed their shops.
I'm putting together some movies and will post them when finished.